By Sarah Francis
A student has set up a FREE dance school for kids with Down syndrome – and hopes to take off worldwide.
The Purple Tutu ballet gives classes to girls from four to 10 in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Launched in 2014 by Holland McDowell, 20, the savvy-student was still in school when she founded the organisation after learning that people with Down syndrome have great flexibility but lack core strength.
Holland, who now studies at George Washington, said: “I believe that the kids love that they have their own special time dedicated just to them.
“When they come into class, they are given a purple tutu to put on, and when they put that tutu on, they know that it is time to dance.
“I think that it is also exciting for the students when they finally get a certain position or ballet move down.
“Sometimes, just the simplest arm movement to make a first position or a slight bend of the knees into a plié is something that I can tell makes them feel proud and accomplished.
“I think one of the biggest things, though, is that they always have fun during class.
“Whatever their favorite part is, whether it be jumping over the “river” or dancing with colorful scarves at the end of class, you are guaranteed to see a bright smile on each child’s face throughout the thirty minutes.
“I can attest to numerous benefits that the Purple Tutu has produced.
“For one thing, I notice the kids growing stronger and remembering more and more every class.
“Not only do we see changes in class, but we hear about them from the parents of our students.
“They are finding that their children are practicing what they have learned in class at home.
“Parents have also told us that when they take their children to therapy sessions, therapists are pleasantly surprised by the kids’ improvements.”
Over 20 mini ballerinas have attended the class which is run by passionate volunteers.
And Holland hopes to expand Purple Tutu worldwide.
She added: “I would love to see these kids continue to dance into adulthood, but even if they decide not to, the benefits of ballet that they gain as young children will persist through improved core strength, discipline, respect, and social skills.”